Aspen Adjusts City Water Use to Boost Roaring Fork River Flows

For more information, contact:

Tony LaGreca
Colorado Water Trust
Phone: 720-570-2897

Mitzi Rapkin
City of Aspen
Phone: 970-319-2791

Aspen, Co., September 7, 2022 – On September 7th, 2022, the City of Aspen reduced diversions from the Roaring Fork River at the Wheeler Ditch to support healthier river flows. This allows more water to flow downstream through Aspen, bolstering low flows in the Roaring Fork. This project is part of a ten-year agreement between the City and Colorado Water Trust and continues a years-long effort to support the health of the Roaring Fork during dry periods.

The added flow from the Wheeler Ditch project, estimated at 2-3 cfs (cubic feet per second), is intended to support river health during times of low flow. In past years, the City’s efforts have increased flows in the Roaring Fork from mid-summer into October, at times contributing more than 50% of the river’s flow.

The agreement between the City and Colorado Water Trust is designed to keep flows closer to the 32 cfs mark, the amount of water necessary to preserve the natural environment in the section of river downstream of the Wheeler Ditch.

“Colorado’s 20-year megadrought is taking its toll on the Roaring Fork River, but thankfully the Water Trust and the City of Aspen had the forethought to develop this innovative water sharing project for times like these. By working together, we have been able to keep the river flowing during drought for the benefit of both the aquatic species and the community that values its life-sustaining river. We are fortunate to have an excellent partner in the City of Aspen and we look forward to working with them long into the future to keep the Roaring Fork River flowing strong,” Tony LaGreca, Project Manager, Colorado Water Trust.

“We take a comprehensive approach at our utility to both serve our customers and preserve our community values, which includes the health of the Roaring Fork River,” said Steve Hunter Utility Resource Manager for City of Aspen.” This program has been successful since we piloted it nine years ago and we are encouraged by how seemingly small shifts in water management can benefit the community, wildlife and habitat of the Roaring Fork River in Aspen and the downstream environment.”

This is the sixth year since 2013 that the City of Aspen has reduced diversions to help maintain healthy streamflow in the Roaring Fork River. This project operated in 2013, 2014, 2018, 2020, and 2021 resulting in an estimated 1351 acre-feet of water being released to the Roaring Fork River.

As always, the project would not be a success without the help and support from the City of Aspen, Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, and Laffey-McHugh Foundation.